The Secret Sorority No One Ever Wants to Join–and The One EVERYONE Will.

Isn’t this eco-friendly paper box beautiful?


But for the saddest, most personal of occasions–a casket for infant death.   (Infant casket from Passages International)

In 1997, my first pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage;  I was barely pregnant before I wasn’t any longer.   As loss goes, it was a small one–nothing physically traumatic, easily healed from.  Emotionally, though, it was much harder–that baby was tried for and hoped for and dreamed for for nearly a year before she came and then went, and now I had nothing to go on other than the doctor’s report that I had miscarried.  There would be no body, no service, nothing besides two lines on a test to prove she once existed.

What you don’t know until you have a pregnancy loss is that it’s very common.  It’s the Secret Sorority You Never Want To Join–you really don’t even know about it until you belong, and then you do.

After you lose a pregnancy, women open up to you.  It’s amazing how many of us, walking around every day, have stories of pregnancy loss in their past–but it’s something we just don’t talk about until we have a new member to comfort.   In a strange way, it’s reassuring to know that so many have been through it as well, and have good lives and children to show for it at the end, but until you’ve been through it, you have no idea.   I imagine now, in the age of the internet, it may change a bit–the support is more out there, more known–but pregnancy loss is a something you can’t really understand until you’ve been there.

Pregnancy loss and infant death happens, usually completely unexpectedly.  It’s out of sequence, not the way it’s supposed to go, any inkling or contemplation of it avoided in some protective “If I don’t see it, it isn’t there” game a pregnant woman plays with herself.  That’s natural and normal–a woman in pregnancy would drive herself insane considering the what-ifs, especially the remote edge cases such as pregnancy and infant loss.  Sadly, it does very occasionally occur, and leaves expectant parents in uncharted, unconsidered territory, whether a miscarriage to mourn privately, or death of an infant known to many..

Death–yours, mine,  of a present loved one–need not be, should not be the same.  It certainly will bring up similar loss and grief to work through, but there’s one thing we all know–how this journey will end, or rather that this journey will end.   NO ONE is getting out alive.  EVERYONE needs a plan for how they want the end to be, from the advanced directives and such, down to choice of funeral arrangements, what you want done to/with your body, and how and what you want left behind on earth to commemorate your life.

With few exceptions, you don’t control the timing of your death.  But you can plan and control certain aspects of it, and in doing so give a gift to those who survive you.   Death, always, is a horrible thought, as it brings loss and grief.  But to not face it and plan around it adds chaos and burden to the moment.

Funeral Plans aren’t the Only Thing!

On this blog, I focus a lot on preplanning, on getting your wishes around your final arrangement detailed, communicated, and paid for.  It’s my passion, and what I believe strongly in–saving money and stress by establishing well-thought-through plans based in information and research.

(You should never try to buy a car with me–the information and research stage will kill you!)

But this is only one aspect of the cornucopia of End Of Life decisions.  I find it right for my focus on and drive toward research and planning, because it’s one with largely knowable outcome–no matter how you die, it’s nearly 100% certain that there will be a body to be dealt with at the end (disasters and missing-presumed-dead scenarios notwithstanding, naturally).   You can think ahead decades and know how you’d like to be disposed of, even begin making the arrangements (plot/urn/etc) that will be necessary, and be comfortable that those decisions will still be applicable and relevant when you do finally die.

Decisions and discussions around the other side of End of Life–the dying part, not the dead part–are far less cut and dried, but perhaps even more important.  There are so many variables, so many things that could and do go not like you planned them–Alzheimer’s, strokes, surgical complications, and so on.   To plan for your wishes against a sea of unknowns seems foolish, but it just makes the process that much more important!

As this article makes clear, often doctors aren’t even prepared or capable of bringing up the conversations around dying, and families often don’t, especially in crisis.   But you need to.

Options regarding end-of-life care should be discussed well before an emergency — or for those with dementia, during the early stages of mental decline. “The absolute worst time to contemplate decisions about medical care is when one is critically ill and in the hospital,” Dr. Volandes writes.

The kinds of questions doctors should be asking:

■ What gives your life meaning and joy?

■ What are your biggest fears and concerns?

■ What are you looking forward to?

■ What goals are most important to you now?

■ What trade-offs or sacrifices are you willing to make to achieve those goals?

Start your conversations now, around everything End of Life.  You never know when it will get here.

Planning ahead isn’t optional. Not for funeral arrangements, not for a ‘good’ death, not for finances.   The end of life is coming–how will you meet it?

Sad Tales in Preplanning

Recently I read of this woman’s multi-year fight to access her preplanning arrangements.   Sometimes, even having the plans laid out as best you can may not be enough.  She thought choosing a funeral home and paying ahead was what she was supposed to do.  I’m sure she was told that was enough, that was great, all was done.

But then she wanted to change funeral homes.  It happens!  People move closer to children, or change jobs, or retire and hate where they are.   Or just want a different option.

Because she pre-paid with a trust, the rules in her state (Nebraska) limited the liability for the funeral homes as far as fiduciary obligation and transferability.  She only really found out the shortfalls in her plans when she tried to transfer;  if she had not, her kids would have been given the hard news later on.  What she wanted, and what she had funds for, two very different pictures.

I’m glad Mrs. Lespreance in the article had the foresight to plan ahead, and the grit and gut to challenge the system when she didn’t get what she was promised.   Would you have?   What would have happened to her plans if she was gone, and her kids were making the arrangements–would they have kicked a fit, or just paid the extra and moved on?

Funeral homes do a great service for a great many people.  But if you’re not in immediate need, they may not always be your best option for planning.   A plan written up independently, funded independently with a good national pre-need policy will always be portable and in your own control.

Trusts may not be a good answer if you don’t have immediate need.  Prepaying with a specific home may not be the answer if you’re young, mobile, or stand a chance of being elsewhere when you die (or changing your mind).

Planning ahead is essential.  Prepaying may NOT be the best of ideas.   Ask an independent consultant why!

What is up with this?

So, in my daily readings, I see a lot of court cases and such, but seriously:

Warring families burial

What the ever-loving heck?  Look at that sidebar.   How many different fights about burial location and such do there need to be?

Some of those likely are unavoidable due to bureaucracy and such.  But to have families suing each other over dueling plot locations?  Bodies having to be dug up?

PREPLAN, folks.  Preplan, and more essentially, COMMUNICATE.

Mr. Fryer up there wasn’t expecting to drop dead while opening his shop.  He probably never imagined in his wildest dreams that his wife and family would end up in court over his burial spot!

What about you?  What can’t you even imagine might go wrong?

Does everyone in your world know your wishes?